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Women's football is not another type of sport

June 6, 2020

Bad news for the chauvinists at the football table. Scientists from Germany's Sport University Cologne have proved that women who play football can implement tactical approaches just as well as men.

FIFA Frauen-WM 2019 | Deutschland vs. Schweden | Dzsenifer Marozsan
Image: Imago Images/Bildbyran

In the macho world of football, you often hear: "Women's football is nice but football tactics are definitely not a female gene. Men can clearly do that better."

Nonsense, Professor Daniel Memmert from Germany's Sport University Cologne said in an interview with DW. The 48-year-old's team at the institute for training and computer science analysed football game data from both genders.

"The study has documented that football games played by women and men are tactically very similar and are not as different as is often suggested," Memmert said.

The chauvinistic factor, that can be an issue through video analysis, is eliminated. "We had machines not people analyze the data and in doing so we removed the possibility of gender-based prejudice seeping in."

Six international games were analyzed as part of the study, featuring both men's and women's teams from Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Georgia.

The tactical difference between men's and women's football is minimal
The tactical difference between men's and women's football is minimalImage: Reuters/L. Nicholson

Dribbling, crossing and pressing just as good

The computer counted, amongst other things, passes, crosses, dribblings and shots. Alongside the so-called "event-data," the positions of the players across entire games, accurate to the second, was also recorded. Which team pressed better, who controlled the space through their style of play better, who pushed more towards goal in the final third?

And what's this: Neither the results of individual player stats or those of the team displayed considerable differences between men's or women's football. In other words, women can handle tactics just as well as men. Or just as badly. Gender definitely plays no role.

That does however, not mean that women's football games have to look exactly the same as the men's games. There are physiological differences between men and women, in terms of strength and speed, said Memmert.

But that is not what the study was about. "It's not very innovative to compare physiological parameters. You don't do it in tennis or gymnastics. We wanted to investigate the tactical nature of the game."

And in doing so they found no considerable difference between men's and women's football. And what practical keys can we take from this? Memmert believes we might "carefully state that tactical training between men and women should not be drastically different."

Daniel Memmert
Daniel MemmertImage: DSHS-Pressestelle

'Myths cleaned up'

Memmert's study is just the first move. Further inquiries are set to follow. "In order to work out regional differences, the sample was too small. Moreover, from a science perspective, it's not reputable."

The scientist has therefore appealed to football's associations not to treat women's football so poorly but rather "regularly mention the data, as is the case in the men's game."

Then Memmert and his team may be able to finish off any more dumb sayings from male-dominated football tables.

Nevertheless, Memmert believes a start has been made. "We have cleaned up the prejudices and the myths. That is important in order to create acceptance. People should no longer say: Women's football is a completely different sport."